Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

THE BLACK PEINCE.—Dean Stanley.

The thought which we most naturally connect with the name

of the Black Prince, is the wars of the English and French—

the victories -of England over France. Out of those wars

much noble feeling sprung,—feelings of chivalry and courtesy

and respect to our enemies, and (perhaps a doubtful boon) of

unshaken confidence in ourselves. Such feelings are amongst

our most precious inheritances, and all honour be to him who

first inspired them into the hearts of his

countrymen, never to be again extinct. But

it is a matter of still greater thankfulness

to remember, as we look at the worn-out

armour of the Black Prince, that those wars

of English conquest are buried with him,

never to be revived. Other wars may arise

in the unknown future still before us—but

such wars as he and his father waged, we

shall, we may thankfully hope, see no more

again for ever. We shall never again see a

King of England, or a Prince of Wales, taking advantage of a legal quibble to conquer a

great neighbouring country, and laying waste

with fire and sword a civilised kingdom, from

mere self-aggrandisement. We have seen

how, on the eve of the battle of Poitiers, one

good man with a patience and charity truly

heroic did strive by all that Christian wisdom

and forbearance could urge, to stop that unhallowed warfare. It is a satisfaction to think

that his wish is accomplished; that what

he laboured to effect almost as a hopeless

project, has now well-nigh become the law of the civilised world. It is true, that the wars of Edward III. and the Black Prince were renewed again on a more frightful scale in the next century, renewed at the instigation of an Archbishop of Canterbury, who strove thus to avert the storm which seemed to him to be threatening the Church: but these were the last, and the tomb and college of Chichele are themselves lasting monuments of the deep remorse for his sin, which smote his declining years. With him finished the last trace of those bloody wars: may nothing ever arise, in our time or our children's, to break the bond of peace between England, and France, which is the bond of the peace of the world.

[graphic]

The Black Prince,

from his

Tomb in Canterbury

Cathedral.

Secondly, he brings before us all that is most characteristic of the ages of chivalry.' You have heard of his courtesy, his reverence to age and authority, his generosity to his fallen enemy. But I must in justice remind you, that the evil as well as the good of chivalry was seen in him, and that this evil, like that which I spoke of just now, is also, I trust, buried with him. One single instance will show what I mean. In those disastrous years which ushered in the close of his life, a rebellion arose in his French province of Gascony, provoked by

his wasteful expenditure. One of the chief towns where the insurgents held out, was Limoges. The Prince, though then labouring under his fatal illness, besieged and took it; and as soon as it was taken, he gave orders that his soldiers should massacre every one that they found; whilst he himself, too ill to walk or ride, was carried through the streets in a litter, looking on at the carnage. Men, women, and children, threw themselves on their knees, as he passed on through the devoted city, crying "Mercy, mercy;" but he went on relentlessly, and the massacre went on, till, struck by the gallantry of three French knights, whom he saw fighting in one of the squares against fearful odds, he ordered it to cease. Now, for this dreadful scene there were doubtless many excuses—the irritation of illness, the affection for his father, whose dignity he thought outraged by so determined a resistance, and the indignation against the ingratitude of a city on which he had bestowed many favours. But what is especially to be observed, is not so much the cruelty of the individual man as the great imperfection of that kind of virtue which could allow of such cruelty. Dreadful as this scene seems to us, to men of that time it seemed quite natural. The poet who recorded it, had nothing more to say concerning it, than that:—

[graphic]

The Black Prince, from an ancient painting.

"All the townsmen were taken or slain
By the noble Prince of price;
Whereat great joy had all around,
Those -who were his friends;
And his enemies were
Sorely grieved, and repented
That they had begun the war against him."

This strange contradiction arose from one single cause. The Black Prince, and those who looked up to him as their pattern, chivalrous, kind, and generous as they were to their equals, and to their immediate dependants, had no sense of what was due to the poor, to the middle, and the humbler classes generally. He could be touched by the sight of a captive king, or at the gallantry of the three French gentlemen; but he had no ears to hear, no eyes to see, the cries and groans of the fathers, and mothers, and children, of the poorer citizens, who were not bound to him by the laws of honour and of knighthood. It is for us to remember, as we stand by his grave, that whilst he has left us the legacy of those noble and beautiful feelings, which are the charm and best ornaments of life, though not its most necessary virtues, it is our further privilege and duty to extend those feelings towards the classes on which he never cast a thought; to have towards all classes of society, and to make them have towards each other, and towards ourselves, the high respect, the courtesy, and kindness, which were then peculiar to one class only.

It is a well-known saying in Shakspeare, that—

"The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones."—

But it is often, happily, just the reverse, and so it was with the
Black Prince.

He was the first great English captain, who showed what English soldiers were, and what they could do against Frenchmen, and against all the world. He was the first English prince who showed what it was to be a true gentleman. He was the first, but he was not the last. We have seen how, when he died, Englishmen thought that all their hopes had died with him. But we know that it was not so; we know that the life of a great nation is not bound up with the life of a single man; we know that the valour and the courtesy and the chivalry of England are not buried in the grave of the Plantagenet Prince. It needs only a glance round the country, to see that the high character of an English gentleman, of which the Black Prince was the noble pattern, is still to be found everywhere; and has since his time been spreading itself more and more through classes, which in his time seemed incapable of

reaching it And not to soldiers only, but to all who are

engaged in the long warfare of life, is his conduct an example. To unite in our lives the two qualities expressed in his motto, "Hoch muth " and " Ich dien" ("high spirit " and "reverent service"), is to be, indeed, not only a true gentleman and a true soldier, but a true Christian also. To show to all who differ from us, not only in war but in peace, that delicate forbearance, that fear of hurting another's feelings, that happy art of saying the right thing to the right person, which he showed to the captive king, would indeed add a grace and a charm to the whole course of this troublesome world, such as none can afford to lose, whether high or low. Happy are they who, having this gift by birth or station, use it for its highest purposes; still more happy are they who, having it not by birth or station, have acquired it, as it may be acquired, by Christian gentleness and Christian charity.

And lastly, to act in all the various difficulties of our everyday life with that coolness, and calmness, and faith in a higher power than his own, which he showed when the appalling danger of his situation burst upon him at Poitiers, would smoothe a hundred difficulties and ensure a hundred victories. We often think we have no power in ourselves, no advantages of position, to help us against our many temptations, to overcome the many obstacles we encounter. Let us take our stand by the Black Prince's tomb, and go back once more in thought to the distant fields of France. A slight rise in the wild upland plain, a steep lane through vineyards and underwood, this was all that he had, humanly speaking, on his side; but he turned it to the utmost use of which it could be made, and won the most glorious of battles. So, in like manner, our advantages may be slight—hardly perceptible to any but ourselves—let us turn them to account, and the results will be a hundredfold; we have only to adopt the Black Prince's bold and cheering words, when first he saw his enemies, " God is my help, I must fight them as best I can;" adding that lofty yet resigned and humble prayer, which he uttered when the battle was announced to be inevitable, and which has since become a proverb, " God defend the right."

Notes.Th* Black Prince.—Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Edward III., got the name of the Black Prince from the "black armour he wore. He himself was fair. He was born at Woodstock in 1330, and died of consumption in 1376, at the age of forty-six. He fought with great gallantry at Crew, when he was only sixteen. In 1337 King Edward, his father, claimed the Crown of France, in right of his mother, Isabella. She was the daughter of Philip the Fair, King of France (1285-1314), and was affianced to her future husband, Edward II., when she was only six years old. On the death of Philip the Fair's three sons without heirs, Edward III. claimed at least the regency of France, as nephew of the three, his mother being their sister. But the French Salic law, which forbade a queen reigning, was held to prevent a female heiress transmitting rights she did not herself possess. Edward disputed this, and hence rose the great wars with France, which drained the blood and treasure of both England and France for over a hundred years. The claim was worthless in itself, and, even if its principle had been granted, there were nearer heirs than Edward. A legal quibble.— Respecting Edward's claim through his mother. MatUe of Poitiers.—Fought 1346.

Gained by the Black Prince. John, King of France, and his son, were taken prisoners. Poitiers is now a town of 30,000 inhabitants. It is about 200 miles 8.W. from Paris. The English helditfor nearly three hundred years. It was not the southern limit of their French territory, however. They held Bordeaux, over 100 miles S.W. of Poitiers, from 1132 to 1451. The son of the Black PrinceRichard of Bordeaux—(Richard II.) was born there. Still further south the English held the province of Gascony, which reaches to the Pyrenees, from 1152 to 1453. One good man, &c.—Cardinal Perigord. Chkhele.—He was bornin 1362, and died 1443. In 1414, the year of the Council of Constance, when all Europe was crying out for the Reform of the Church, he fanned to a flame Henry V.'s ambition to conquer the whole of France, as his rightful inheritance—the real object of his doing so being to prevent the reform of the Church in England, by the distraction of foreign war. Chichele founded All Souls' College, Oxford. He lies buried in Canterbury Cathedral. Limoges.—A town in the old province of the Limousin, now in the Department of Haute Vienne. Taken by the English, as in the text, in 1370. It is 110 miles N.W. of Bordeaux.

A FAREWELL.—Tennyson.

Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:

No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,

A rivulet then a river:
Nowhere by thee my steps shall be,

For ever and for ever.

But here will sigh thine alder tree,
And here thine aspen shiver;

And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever.

A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver,

But not by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

« ElőzőTovább »